Doc/Fest 2016 – Photography

Through the eye of the camera – documenting reality at Sheffield Doc/Fest

How we view the world around us is explored in this year’s festival in films and talks both by photographers and about photography. From the Grand Jury nominated film Cameraperson, to the smart phone becoming a legitimate way for refugees to document their experience, as in the World premiere of Exodus, the camera lens shows no sign of losing its power at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016.


The 160 strong Doc/Fest Film Programme, curated by Claire Aguilar, includes:


Snow Monkey directed by George Gittoes

Youth Jury Award / UK premiere / Australia, Norway / 2015 / 148 min

In Taliban-controlled Jalalabad, three gangs of children restlessly roam the streets. Artist, activist and filmmaker George Gittoes encourages them to put down their weapons and pick up a camera instead, working with the children to make films about their abundantly dramatic lives. By giving voice to some of war’s most neglected victims, Snow Monkey takes us into an Afghanistan we have not seen before.


Cameraperson directed by Kirsten Johnson

Grand Jury Award / UK premiere / United States / 2016 / 102 min

For 25 years American cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has roamed the globe for some of the doc world’s biggest directors, including Michael Moore and Laura Poitras. In this thoroughly engrossing film she refashions some of her footage into a kaleidoscope musing on her profession. Innovative and thought provoking, Cameraperson proves a master class in empathetic filmmaking, a must see for anyone forging a career on filming the lives of others.

Plaza de la Soledad directed by Maya Goded

UK premiere / Mexico / 2016 / 84 min

A group of ageing prostitutes chat energetically in a square called “solitude” (soledad). Observing and narrating their relationships over the course of two decades, acclaimed photographer-turned-filmmaker Maya Goded is a trusted confidante to many of these women. The film unpicks the recent lives of five who have been in the game for years, but nonetheless remain resolutely hopeful.

Exodus: Breaking into Europe (Working Title) directed by James Bluemel

World premiere / United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Austria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Libya, Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Senegal, Serbia, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey / 2015 / 60 min

12 months ago, KEO films gave out camera phones to 75 people attempting to break into Europe. They filmed where regular crews could not: on dinghies from Turkey to Greece, in lorries entering Eurostar, or trucks crossing the Sahara. The result is a terrifyingly intimate yet uniquely epic portrait of what has become the biggest story of the decade.

#MyEscape directed by Elke Sasse

UK premiere / Afghanistan, Eritrea, Germany, Syrian Arab Republic / 2016 / 90 min

#MyEscape shows the journey that refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea chose to undergo, as the circumstances in their home-countries became increasingly unliveable, by using footage which has been shot by the refugees themselves. Within a timeframe of 90 minutes, these insights are interwoven with reflective in-depth interviews with the protagonists, connecting the outer journey that they went on, to the one that took place within.

Talks and Sessions:

Female Trailblazers: New Ways of Working in Media

PARTICIPANTS: Rachel Wexler, Kirsten Johnson, Sophie Mayer, Lucy Baxter

There is a new vanguard in our media culture. A growing pool of talented and experienced women, tired of waiting for the film and TV industry to reach the 21st century, are driving it forward themselves. The voices of working mothers, and female perspectives in general, are being lost in the current industry climate. The women on this panel are forging ahead with new business models and new ways of working that suit their lives, their choices and their careers. Cameraperson directed by Kristen Johnson, is screening at the festival.

Honest Truths: The Ethical Challenges of Filmmaking

PARTICIPANTS: Angus MacQueen, Kirsten Johnson, Nanfu Wang

Any filmmaker who sets out to make a documentary faces multiple challenges, not the least of which is a set of ethical issues inherent in the process. To film or not to film? How close to a subject is too close? How far is too far? Sometimes lines are crossed and sometimes boundaries are set beforehand. These documentarians share their experience on recent projects and how they handled a variety of ethical issues that occurred. Hooligan Sparrow directed by Nanfu Wang and Cameraperson directed by Kirsten Johnson are screening at the festival.

Writing with Light: The Art of Cinematography

PARTICIPANTS: Petra Graf, Maya Goded, Kirsten Johnson, Nick Read

The harmony of photography and story has been the goal of professional cinematographers throughout cinema history. But how is the perfect marriage of image and narrative achieved and what choices do the director and cinematographer make to best visually express the story? A panel of distinguished documentary filmmakers will discuss the creative and practical process and offer valuable insights into the dramatic choices directors and cinematographers make. Plaza de la Soledad directed by Maya Goded, is screening at the festival. Cameraperson directed by Kristen Johnson, is screening at the festival.

Doc/Fest Exchange In Tudor Square Supported By Wellcome Trust:

Digging Deeper… Snow Monkey

Science presenter Aarathi Prasad and child psychologist Sam Wass (The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds) enter the child universe of George Gittoes’ Snow Monkey.

Part of a series of free-of-charge conversations and creative exchanges inspired by extraordinary talent, groundbreaking films and interactive and virtual reality storytelling.



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